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Keynote address by Air Marshal PP Reddy VM, ADC, Chief of Integrated Defence Staff at the 18th Asian Security Conference on "Securing Cyberspace: Asian and International Perspectives"

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  • Air Marshal PP Reddy VM, ADC, Chief of Integrated Defence Staff
    February 09, 2016

    Dr Jayant Prasad, Director General IDSA
    Distinguished guests and participants,
    Ladies and gentlemen,

    1. It gives me great pleasure in welcoming you all to the 18th edition of the Asian Security Conference. Since its inception in January 1999, this Conference has served as a forum for free and open discussion by security analysts, experts and scholars from different parts of the world. The theme of the 18th Asian Security Conference – 'Securing Cyberspace : Asian and International Perspectives' is a highly relevant and extremely contemporary as cyberspace has become an arena for co-operation, competition as well as conflict.

    2. The traditional bases of national power have included the economy, military capabilities, the science and technology base, and national resources including physical resources, human resources, infrastructure, and knowledge resources. The arrival of the Information Age is widely seen as a momentous development, as revolutionary as the Industrial Age, with information processing regimes replacing manufacturing as the source of wealth and growth. Cyber and information technologies have added a new dimension to the various components of national power, creating both new capabilities as well as new sources of vulnerabilities. Cyberspace and cyber technologies today, have become key components in the formulating and execution of national policy. Cyber technologies are also entwined across the key components of national power and act as a force multiplier, thereby creating new synergies and unleashing new forces, sometimes with disruptive effects.

    3. The Prime Minister of India, while enunciating his vision of a Digital India conceptualised an India “where government services are easily and efficiently available on mobile devices; where government actively engages with people on social media; where mobile phones enable personal services; and where cyber security becomes an integral part of the national security.” Towards this end, the Govt of India has started a number of programmes to leverage information technology for the benefit of citizens. The “Digital India” and “Smart Cities” are flagship programmes with a vision to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy. Another flagship programme of the Government of India is “Make in India” which is designed to facilitate investment, foster innovation, enhance skill development, to protect intellectual property rights and to build best-in-class manufacturing infrastructure for products made in India. Both the programmes operate by leveraging the use of information technology. It goes without saying that this accelerated capacity building has enormous implications for the country's cyber-security posture.

    4. With over 400 million Internet users, whose number is growing rapidly, India has an enormous stake in a safe and secure cyberspace. The Indian government has always stood for an open, global and secure cyberspace and is also aware of the fact that this goal can only be arrived at through international co-operation and collaboration. At the same time, threats from both state and non-state actors, are weakening the very foundations of this concept.

    5. As highlighted earlier, cyberspace has today become an intricate constituent of national power having a peaceful as well as the military dimensions. And hence the involvement of the Armed Forces in the domain, in order to secure it, as also to develop credible deterrence capabilities. With militaries adopting network centric warfare and migrating towards more complex Info & Comn systems, they are at elevated risks of cyber attacks. Several nations have documented their cyber strategies and executed them through organisations and structures in the form of Cyber Commands etc, while several other nations are frequently making changes, based on dynamic nature of the envisaged threat. Cyberspace is also witnessing a race for development and deployment of cyber weapons, and has therefore been one of the major security concerns of the Nation States.

    6. “Will strategic stability in a globalised and digitised environment be feasible, considering the rapid increase in threats and violations in an unregulated cyber space” is what we all need to sit together and discuss. Are we today witnessing a sort of Cyber Arms Race akin to the nuclear or missile arms race of yesteryears? Can we have international regulatory mechanisms binding on activities in cyber space, and efficacy of such mechanisms on cyber domain where physical inspections etc are of little relevance? Or should regulations be through treaties or conventions or a simple code of conduct by nations, organisations, and individuals?

    7. There are also questions about whether existing laws and conventions on war, particularly the Laws of Armed Conflict (LOAC), and International Humanitarian Law can be adapted to the new environment of cyber warfare. The basic principles that have governed definitions and responses to traditional war, such as sovereignty, jurisdiction, use of force, self-defence, proportionality, distinction, and necessity, cannot be easily adapted to cyberwar. Malicious actors, state-sponsored or otherwise, are taking advantage of the confusion to carry out action that come below the thresholds of the definition of war. The question then arises as to which is the appropriate body that would counter or deter such attacks. One of the most difficult issues related to adapting the existing international law to cyberspace is to do with cyber weapons. There is as yet no legally agreed upon definition of a cyber weapon, and the unique characteristics of cyberspace make defining a cyber weapon, that much more harder. And that raises the legitimate question as to whether cyber weapons are a reality, something with which we have to live with and hence devise ways and means to deal with them.

    8. Of course, none of these laws apply to the terrorist organisation who have adapted themselves in innovative ways to become one the most ardent users of cyberspace for a variety of purposes, from communication, to finance, as well as for recruitment, networking and psy ops as we are currently witnessing. As the visual and real worlds get increasingly integrated with the Internet of Things (IoT), it is only inevitable that terrorists will try to use cyberspace for destructive purposes as well.

    9. With the cyber arena now recognised as a new and distinct domain of warfare, setting up a force competent to achieve the dual objectives of defending the country from cyber attacks in war and securing the military's network operations in peace, requires considerable thought. In the near term, cyber has added a new dimension to the traditional warfare. While both on the ground is not going to be replaced by cyber armies operating in a virtual battlefield in the near future, information dominance in the battlefield may well make the difference between victory and defeat. On the other hand, increasing use of Info & Comn Tech by the armies of today, can also lead to destruction through the manipulation of information by opposing forces.

    10. Requisite capabilities for protecting the Indian cyber space, both for civil and military applications, are slowly but steadily, being enhanced. Cooperation amongst the nation-states and a consensus approach, for regulating cyber space need to be adopted by the global community to ensure that the cyber domain is used primarily to enhance quality of life of citizens of our nations, and to strengthen peace, stability and development.

    11. In this multi-dimensional, dynamic and evolving medium that we call cyberspace, one finds both, great challenges and great opportunities. I am sure, that the thought and perspectives of the eminent speakers at this conference, including experts and thinkers in cyber technology from around the world, will go a long way in shaping the future of cyberspace and cyber security.

    Thank you.

    Jai Hind!